|AI INDEX: AMR 53/014/2000 30 October 2000|
PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 53/14/00
UA 332/00 Death threat / Fear for safety
30 October 2000
VENEZUELA Pemón indigenous people in Santa Cruz de
Maupari Melchor Flores (Indian chief )
Indigenous people protesting against the construction of an electricity supply network in Venezuela's Gran Sabana region have reportedly received death threats. Amnesty International is concerned for their safety, and for the safety of their chief, Melchor Flores.
In early October, Pemón indigenous people living in the community of Santa Cruz de Maupari, state of Bolívar, found a school exercise book (cuaderno de colegio) on a road leading out of the village, in which the following words were written in capital letters on each page: ''INDIOS MALDITOS - LOS BAMOS A MATAR A TODOS'' (sic), ''BLOODY INDIANS - WE ARE GOING TO KILL THE LOT OF YOU''. They suspected the book had been deliberately left on the road by soldiers at a nearby army base.
A week later employees with a construction company told some youngsters from the community, whom they were giving a lift, that workers on the electricity supply network project were being armed, ready to kill the community's inhabitants.
Pemón Indian chief (Cacique) Melchor Flores complained about the threats to an army commander responsible for troops stationed in the region, and showed him the school exercise book. The commander told the chief that the threats had been written by someone from the indigenous group.
Separate complaints about the threats have been filed before the offices of the Ombudsman and the Attorney (la Defensoría del Pueblo y Fiscalía).
The Pemón indigenous community are protesting against the construction of an electricity supply network (tendido eléctrico) running pylons and high voltage cables across Venezuela's Canaima National Park, Imataca Forest Reserve and the Gran Sabana region. Work on the network began in 1997 following an agreement for Venezuela to supply northern Brazil with electricity.
In April the indigenous people of Santa Cruz de Maupari issued a declaration to protest that the network would irreversibly damage the environment and their way of life. Several Venezuelan non-governmental organizations (NGOs) later added their names to the protest. Brazilian NGOs have also protested about the network's effect on indigenous communities in northern Brazil.
In December 1999 a new Constitution came into force in Venezuela, which includes provisions for the protection of indigenous peoples and their environment. It also provides for the protection of human rights and states that international human rights treaties and conventions are an integral part of the rule of law in Venezuela.
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